On Wednesday, the group took a much needed break from the construction site, travelling 2 hours up the Ucayali River by boat to a Shipibo tribe in Limongema. By then, the volunteers and our local team of construction workers had accomplished an incredible amount on site.
Walking down to the river to find our boat, passing by several street vendors selling fruit, juices, grilled snacks and even clothes, many looked forward to what they thought might be a chance to take a much needed nap. But from my memories of last year, the 2 hours would be accompanied by the lovely sounds of a powerful motor, strong enough to carry 26 people up the river on a long wooden boat.
Leaving behind the bustle of Pucallpa, we set out on our way. Some brought along binoculars, hoping to catch a glimpse of a beautiful bird or two.
Over the next two hours, we’d pass by other boats, some big and some small, many filled with locals travelling down stream, most likely to Pucallpa.
When we arrived to Limongema, recognizing it from the big beautiful tree by the river side, the path we had taken last year up to the village was no longer there.
The water levels have been higher this year and the area has been affected by severe flooding. Unable to enter from our usual route, the boat continued on, finding an alternate one down a narrow stream hugged by beautiful foliage and palm trees.
Setting foot in Limongema, it was exciting to reunite with the talented group of artisans Brigitte has been working with over the past 5 years.
Producing beautiful embroideries and bead work by hand, these artisans create many pieces sold at the Pure Art Boutique. For Brigitte, the ninth principle of Fair Trade- Respecting Cultural Traditions- is what motivates her to strengthen her relationship with these artisans.
While Shipibo inspired designs are now being mass produced by machine, these women continue to hand stitch beautiful bags, textiles, pillow cases, table runners and wall art. Collaborating with them to design pieces especially for Pure Art and the upcoming launch of our online store, we’re building a partnership that is sustainable and committed to developing global market access for the work of these artisans. It’s exciting to share this aspect of our work with the volunteers. While they travel with us to support the work of the Pure Art Foundation, building a home in the slums of Manantay, this trip to Limongema is a chance to see Fair Trade in action. Pure Art & The Art of Shopping with a Purpose is the collaboration between our Fair Trade Boutique and the work of the Foundation. One cannot exist without the other. The Boutique, operating as a non-profit, works to cover the operating expenses of the Foundation so that 100% of every donation made can go directly to our health, shelter, education and entrepreneurship initiatives. The livelihood of the the Boutique depends on the stunning work of many artisans from around the world, including the Shipibo.
On this year’s trip, the artisans set up a beautiful market for everyone to explore. The tables were covered in beautiful wallets, necklaces, wall art and bracelets and the women had hung dozens of embroidered bags and table runners on rope, tied from tree to tree.
I picked out a traditional hand embroidered Shipibo wrap skirt that I plan to hang on my wall back home. Speaking to the artisan, she told me it had taken her a month to make this piece. It is so detailed and every line stitched is infused with her spirit.
While Brigitte worked with the artisans, placing orders for our new website, many volunteers hung around, curious to learn more about the Fair Trade process. Others headed off to visit a small school where the Shipibo children learn everyday and our awesome group of students from Collège Bourget had some fun playing soccer with some of the kids.
Watching Brigitte negotiate this year’s contract with the artisans is so fascinating. The women are so excited by the potential for growth, and if we can create high-quality products that are both beautiful and durable, we’ll be able to continue this collaboration for years to come. The tribe now has access to electricity and thanks to the sale of Shipibo items over the past year, we’ve committed to purchasing two new electrical machines!
It was a wonderful day out on the river and the boat ride back, moving with the current, let in a refreshing breeze, bringing us back to Pucallpa in less time it had taken to get to Limongema.
We expect our newest designs to arrive by the end of May and we’ll let you know once they’re available online and at the Boutique!